My achachan, my grandfather from my father’s side, was a talented cook. You can bet his outrage at how few of the traditional foods have evolved into something completely different from what they were originally. As a result of Achachan’s lack of interest in farming, his family’s primary source of income was agriculture. He sailed to Penang sometime in the 1930s, cooking his way there. Here he worked on the plantations until the Second World War as a khansamah before returning to his village and establishing a Tea Club (café culture had not yet arrived).
My achachan’s true successor was found when my mother joined their family years later. And so he gave her his most prized possession, his cookbook. Many of the Tamil-Malayali dishes we eat today and some that have vanished with the chimney smoke may have their origins in this old book, now torn and faded.
These old recipes have been revived in my kitchen as part of an effort to bring them back to life We get a sense about what the dish would have tasted like in the past if I don’t improvise and stick to the recipe from achachan’s cookbook. As according old Kerala standards, the book’s language is difficult for me to read and understand, so I’m taking my own proportions.
So Vazhakkai Puli Thuvayal from the old days is here. Thuvayal is similar to a chutney/dip/chammanthi. Although it’s primarily a Tamil dish, pallakadan malayalis may have tasted it. Most people have had hummus, so the consistency will be familiar to them. Making it was a breeze, and I thought it turned out beautifully.
- 1 large vazhakkai, or raw plantain cube
- 2, 3, dry, chilly all three
- Urdu lentils are 1/4 cup in weight
- 1 tbsp. tamarind extract
- a pinch of salt
- Let there be light!
Roast the plantain in the oven or on a charcoal grill until it appears to be done, about 10 minutes. The charred skin of the plaintain should be discarded and the fruit cubed.
Roast the urad dal and red chilly together in a pan.
Add hot water if necessary to help blend the plantain cubes and other ingredients together until you get the desired consistency—hummus-like.
With rice or as a soak for chips, add some warm narrative oil and enjoy! The texture is interesting and the taste is pleasant.